May 29th – The Streak Ends

The streak has ended: this was the first day in May that we did not band a Yellow Warbler! Up to and including yesterday we had banded 114. I think this sends a strong signal that the end is nigh, although this unsettled weather south of us may still be holding back some surprises. For example, we encountered the first Yellow-bellied Flycatchers and Black-billed Cuckoo of the year today. As well, we saw our first Bonaparte’s Gulls (but these have been along the north shore of Lake Erie for at least a month…just not inland). So you just don’t know.

The weatherman has predicted showers, even thunderstorms, on several days over the past week but we have yet to see any rain. You could hardly call the few drops we got this morning rain. It is VERY dry, concerning really. I’m not sure what this dryness, coupled with high heat, is doing to plants and to insect availability – the only plus would seem to be that you can walk the trails here without being pestered by mosquitoes (“slough forests” can turn out a lot of them). But if you’re a bird that is depending on them to fuel migration or feed young, it could be a real problem. And if the conditions are affecting mosquitoes, what other insects are suffering? Everything’s a tradeoff.

I took advantage of this mosquito-free condition to go deep into the slough forest to the north of Indiana Road to remark the sites of point counts I do for the Forest Bird Monitoring Program – these points are some of the very oldest of the program, having been done for over 25 years. The “trail” I use actually used to be a trail, a very good one that 35 years ago ran from the outskirts of York to Indiana Road – completely through thick forest. I used to cross-country ski along it…when we used to have snow. Then ATVers found it and destroyed it – to the point that even they stopped using it. Now there is just a remnant of this lovely trail and what is left is quickly growing in. Good for the forest maybe, but too bad for people that would enjoy the stillness and beauty of a large forest interior. But perhaps the most concerning thing I saw was on my way to the forest – the large hay field on the north side of Indiana Road had been cut and bailed. This is so early that any bird nests in it would have been destroyed – they wouldn’t have a chance.In fact, you could see sparrows sitting on most of the bales – surrounded by what to them would be environmental catastrophe. And so the decimation continues.

Volunteer Carol Jones was curious as to whether she was getting enough exercise, so she wore a pedometer throughout the morning while going about the daily business of bird banding. We closed up about an hour and a bit early due to the light rain and the fact that it looked very threatening. Even so, the gadget indicated that she had taken 12,698 steps. A group consensus settled on an average step length for her of 18 inches. So….Carol walked 228,564 inches; or 19,047 feet; or 3.61 miles; or 5.8 km. She found this VERY pleasing as she decided she could afford to have a second piece of pizza at the congratulatory lunch for our Co-op students, Mackenzie and Addison.

Banded 14:
3 Yellow-bellied Flycatchers
1 House Wren
1 Gray Catbird
1 Field Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
7 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 64 spp.

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